Even before the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, Texas abortion restrictions have limited access so much that many people seeking them have had to travel out of state.
Madlin Mekelburg was among a team of reporters from the Austin American-Statesman and USA Today to travel with more than a dozen Texans who received assistance seeking abortions in New Mexico. She spoke with Texas Standard about the journey.
Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
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This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Could you say a little bit more about what you heard from the women that you met traveling to New Mexico to get abortions?
Madlin Mekelburg: So I can tell you a little bit of background. First, this group of 15 women I traveled with were seeking legal abortions through a partnership with the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and the First Unitarian Church of Dallas. And they were participating in this program because they fall below the federal poverty line. And so this program allows them to travel out-of-state to seek abortions free of charge. All of them were more than six weeks pregnant, and they had really different backgrounds and stories that they shared with us about why they decided to make this decision to travel.
What sort of stories were you hearing?
All of the women had really different experiences that they were talking about. I spoke with one woman, Keyara, who is 25 and already has three children under the age of 5 when she found out she was pregnant again. She talked about feeling like that was an impossible choice for her to make right now, given her financial situation. So that’s why she decided to travel with this program and have an abortion.
I also spoke with a 22-year-old named Desiree who said she found out she was pregnant the same day that she found out she was accepted to university in the fall and a baby was not part of her plans. And that’s why she made the choice to travel. But everyone had a different story and a different experience that they were coming to this with.
What sort of sacrifices did the women you spoke with make to take this trip?
It all happened in one day. It was about 17 hours. They had to come to the church in Dallas at 5 a.m. to get ready to board a flight to New Mexico, where they spent the whole day traveling back and forth to the clinic. Flying home, we landed at about 10 p.m. back in Dallas.
But the point of this program is to make it so it’s easier for women to not have to make this decision by themselves. So this was something we heard from abortion-rights advocates when lawmakers were considering passing the ban on abortion after six weeks, that only women who have the financial means will be able to travel out of state. And so for these women, this was really their only option. And I heard that from a few of them who said, ‘If I couldn’t have made it onto this flight in this group, I would have been forced to carry this pregnancy and just figure things out.’
Does the overturn of Roe v. Wade alter where Texans can seek abortions?
We’ve certainly seen an influx in people from Texas traveling to New Mexico to Louisiana to Oklahoma until recently when they [Oklahoma] passed their own ban on abortion …
We know there are 26 states, including Texas, that plan to ban or severely restrict access to abortion if Roe is overturned. New Mexico is not one of them, but the questions remain about whether clinics in these states that still are allowing abortion after Roe’s overturned, if they can handle the potential increased capacity because there’s hundreds of thousands of women in those 26 states who seek abortions every year.
Austin American-Statesman subscribers can read Mekelburg’s story at statesman.com.